“You must not be struggling TOO much, look at what you’ve accomplished!” 

Trauma survivors get this— a lot. 

“You’re telling me you have this ‘trauma’ thing that makes every day living hell— but you’re still able to do (whatever)? It must not be TOO bad…” 

In our culture we have this bad habit of making assumptions about whether people are being “honest” about their struggles based on what we can observe— from the outside. 

We have this reflexive skepticism when people say “I’m hurt.” 

It’s even worse when they say, “I’m hurt, and I need help.” 

For some reason our cultural inclination is to immediately go into, “Are they exaggerating how much they’re hurting? Are they trying to take advantage in asking for help?” 

This is a particular problem for many complex trauma survivors. 

Trauma survivors often look pretty good— from the outside. 

Many times they’re even “overachievers,” as far as the culture is concerned. 

Many people look at trauma survivors and they see smart, motivated, hard working, detail-oriented people…and that leads them to assume that, whatever that survivor might be struggling with, it must not be TOO bad, right? 

The thing is: many survivors ARE motivated, hard-working, and detail-oriented…for a reason. 

For many complex trauma survivors, striving for “perfection” was a matter of SAFETY growing up. 

Some survivors threw themselves into academic achievement and activities as a way of avoiding or coping with an abusive or neglectful home environment. 

For some survivors, there were painful consequences at home if they DIDN’T bring home a perfect report card. 

Some survivors become “detail-oriented” because the rest of their world seems utterly out of their control. 

Some survivors who experience dissociative splits in their consciousness have a “part” that comes out and deals with the school or the work stuff. Which, to the outside world, may look organized and diligent; but on the inside, it deepens cracks that don’t exist for the hell of it— they exist because the survivor had to compartmentalize their overwhelming feelings and memories SOMEHOW. 

Our cultural standards of “functionality” are poor measures of how trauma survivors are REALLY feeling and functioning. 

But get told often enough that you “must” be fine, because of how you’re performing, and you’ll eventually find yourself in a no win situation.

On the one hand, the world doesn’t like when we say we’re hurt and ask for help— despite the fact that we’re always told to “reach out” if we’re struggling. 

On the other hand, if we NEVER reach out for help, we’re at risk of redlining until we just can’t function at ALL anymore— at which point, surely, somebody will tell us we “should” have reached out. 

Very often our culture fails to really see, really acknowledge, the suffering of trauma survivors, because they just look so darn functional. 

That “functionality” often comes at a price— and is a poor measure of true “functionality” to begin with. 

If we’re not living a life that we don’t fantasize about ending to escape the pain, are we really all that “functional?” 

Many survivors will tell you: you can keep the grades or the promotions or whatever else is being thrown at us to “prove” that we’re obviously not as “hurt” as we’re saying. 

We just want peace inside our head and heart. 

We just wanna love ourselves and have that be an unconflicted, normal state. 

We just wanna feel liked and wanted and in reasonable control of our lives. 

Not grades or degrees or promotions. 

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